Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bolanle And The 3 (Actually, 2½) Wenches

I have finally finished reading a novel that I began two weeks ago, and which I rather deceptively put on my 'Bitchy's Been Reading' list last week (albeit no one noticed) even though I had barely read the first two chapters. The list below is supposed to imply that the titles piled prettily in that corner of my blog have been gorged on and dissected by yours truly. But in fact, this has often not been the case. Take 'The State of Africa' for example. Have I finished reading it? Nooope! And does it look likely that I will go back to it anytime this year? Nooope! Or 'Riding the Iron Rooster' - Did I get past the half-way mark? No I didn't. And am I ashamed to admit it? Nooope! It's not my fault if I get all excited at the prospect of diving into a new book, only to find after the first 10 pages that, well-written or brilliantly-researched though it may be, it does not set my pulse racing, I do not connect with its characters or contents, and I find myself having to stifle a groan whenever my fingers reach for its rectangular form, despite my desperate pleas for them not to. (nota bene, my fingers appear to be the only bones in my body capable of acting on a guilty feeling)

Moving on swiftly from the revelation that I am just a big, fat phoney, I want to talk about 'Seed' - currently Item No. 2 on my list.

Aeons ago, Yukay, who I both admire and envy (my throat is the body part for feelings of jealousy), blogged about Lola Shoneyin. He didn't dedicate an entire post to her (though he has never dedicated an entire post to one singular subject), and it was only a very simple statement like "... and word on the street is that phenomenal poet Lola Shoneyin's debut novel is on its way", but there was such enthusiasm in that statement that my curiousity (think twitchy knees) was aroused. And so I started googling. (yes I know I have a problem. Please let's not lose focus?)

Anyway, on Lola Shoneyin Dot Com, I read as much as I could read on Yukay's favourite poet, and even read an excerpt from 'Seed' I think. But then I found that I was forced to leave it at that, as no dates for publication or anything of the sort were forthcoming.

Fast forward about three months, to two weeks ago, when I was sat in the agency in the midst of shitty task number three hundred and thirteen. Rooting around in their database, I stumbled upon an electronic folder marked 'SHONEYIN'. I thought I was seeing things, so I opened the folder. And then I became giddy with excitement. I became more than giddy - I was near on epileptic! I couldn't control myself! I completely forgot for several minutes that Dildo the dog was sprawled mere seconds away from me. I opened the file on impulse, read the first 3 paragraphs, and then shut the window guiltily when it suddenly dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, interns were not supposed to feast on precious, unpublished, uncopyrighted material without authorisation?

I looked around the small office, like a kid about to dive sneakily into someone else's cookie jar, and thought...

Bloody hell I want to read this thing! I want to read it now!

But what if they say NO?

But what if they say YES?

But what if they say NO and then I go ahead and then they catch me and fire me and take out adverts warning all potential future employers in the teeny tiny publishing world in Britain, the United States and beyond, to stay away from a freak of a girl called....

To cut the story (which is becoming so bloody long, I do apologise, even I am getting tired), I asked if I could read 'Seed'. They said YES and were delighted that an intern would show such active interest in one of their authors. Why? Because they are truly lovely lovely people and not the ogres I may or may not have made them out to be whilst I was working for them last week - I tend to take a lot of liberties with my story-telling, but hey it makes for good reading dunn'it?

They even let me print out a copy so that I wouldn't have to strain for hours at the tiny computer screen. And two weeks after that fateful day, I am finally able to say, that 'Seed' is just brilliant. Absobloodylutely brilliant. It is so quick, and so snappy, and so spunky, and so full of energy, that everyone and everything in it is so fantastically alive. I felt like I was watching the scenes in High Definition - not that I have yet born witness to this new wave of technology, but you know what I mean. It was everything I have imagined the High Definition experience will be, and more.

I have a tendency to give too much away when I talk about a novel like this, and so I don't want to delve too deep. But Lola Shoneyin is just so subtle and so crafty and so delightfully wicked! I love her! She has taken a scenario right out of three quarters of the Nollywood movies sitting on shop shelves in Awolowo Road and being peddled on the street in Kilburn by dodgy Chinese ladies, and has turned it into a work of sheer brilliance. Characters who, if moulded by anyone else would be so placid, so bland, so lacking in depth, are so cleverly nuanced (I said 'nuance' when talking about McEwan didn't I?) The evil older wives (who I have termed 'The Wenches' in my title) could so easily have been blacker than night, without the slightest redeeming moment or feature. But slowly and subtly, Shoneyin peels the layers off each of them, even the evil-est of them, until you are left going "HA! Good for you! But oh! How terribly unfortunate. Pele!" Even the hideous husband, whose ailing digestive system is described in the most repulsive yet laugh out loud gobsmackingly hilarious way, had a moment of sheer frailty and utter despondency towards the end, so frail and so tragic, that I felt moved to weep for him. Obviously I didn't weep, because I still thought of him as a bumbling idiot, but Shoneyin made me want to weep, even if only for a second, and that was what was so bloody fantastic about her novel.

Another thing I loved about 'Seed' was the grand, poetic dialogue that ran through the entire novel, between characters who Shoneyin tells us unequivocally from the start, are all illiterates. It wasn't until I begun to read 80% of the novel in one straight sitting yesterday afternoon, that I realised that these people, who failed to detect the hilarious sarcasm directed at them by other 'educated' individuals, were speaking to each other in Yoruba. The wives (all except for Bolanle 'the graduate') insisted on addressing their husband as "My Lord". In scenes between the 3 wenches and their own mothers or relatives, their speech was infused with such drama, with such rich imagery and structure that they could have been characters in a Yoruba parody of Shakespeare's Macbeth, or even The Bible!

Just look at this...

" 'Keep your mouth shut Iya Simisola! It is a sin to speak evil of those who are led by the Spirit!' Iya Ade warned.

'You dare tell me to shut my mouth?' Iya Funmi took a deep breath and stood up. She turned her entire body round to gaze down at Iya Ade. 'You worm. From what mound did you crawl? If not for the mighty rains, would the pigeon and the turkey find themselves shuffling for shelter beneath the same awning? You talk about sin? Did they not teach you that bearing false witness is a sin in your church? Or does the Bible you brandish like a hatchet not say that?'

I love love loved it! And I'm sure you will too when you get to read it in... Oh I don't know how many months' time. Teehee! I am so chuffed that I got to read it this early, and so excited too! Nigerian literature is truly blazing ahead at break-neck speed. Helon Habila got it soooo wrong when he said this is "the year of the Nigerian writer". This is the decade, no, the century of the Nigerian writer. Our people are taking over oh! Xxxx

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy Ending

I'm listening to 'Happy Ending' by MIKA right now, which is possibly one of the best songs I've heard in a long long while. On a whim this evening, I thought - "Isn't he playing in London soon? Hmmm... Perhaps I'll buy tickets?" Unfortunately it looks like I'm a little too late for that, as his myspace page informs me that all his London shows, which (wait for it) aren't till December, are completely sold out!

I can't believe it. I am in so much pain. Not just because I think he is absolutely fantastic, but because if I hadn't been such a moody billy goat a few years ago, I would probably have been able to call him up 5 minutes ago and request tickets from him myself, instead of being forced to stage a dramatic mourning session in the middle of my living room for the benefit of my very irritated brother.

Five years ago, on a random school day, my friend Zozo (who you may or may not remember from my rendezvous with The Jigga Man) came to me, and asked me if one of the boys in her art class could paint me. At first I thought, "Uh... Why?" but then decided I'd hear him out. His name was Mica, and I had no clue who he was. I was new to a school that was smack bang in the centre of London, and all that was on my recently-liberated mind at the time, was hopping from club to club and shop to shop like some mad, energised bunny on heat!

So I went to the Art building, to meet this Mica. And in walked the skinniest boy I had ever seen! He had these huge eyes that kinda drowned out the rest of his face. His cheekbones were so high and so pronounced that he looked a little like a ghost, but a ghost with an exotic past life, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, Mica and I chatted for all of thirty seconds, in which I began to think that being painted by a lanky emaciated boy in the year above me, might not be such a bad idea. He then said that he wanted me to wear something specific whilst he painted me, and that he hoped I would like it. I can't remember exactly, but I think Zozo was also in the room, and she gave me this funny look that made me just a little apprehensive.

Mica walked into a side room, and then came back in holding what was, and still is, the smallest, tightest corset I had ever seen in my life. I gave him a look that implied that I thought he was retarded. First of all, there was no way I was going to be able to fit into that thing. And furthermore, there was no way I was going to stand in the middle of a very cold, very large room, wearing it on my not so toned, not so flab-free body, whilst this strange boy (who had made the corset by himself, with me in mind - I was flattered, but just slightly freaked out) painted me! I was pretty slim back then, but exercise was a very foreign, nay, alien, concept to me, and I much preferred to maintain the illusion that underneath my regulation-imposed school clothing was a fabulous, sculpted, trophy-worthy bod!

So I said "No" to Mica. And he looked like I had just destroyed him or something. He even sent his Art tutor to me a couple of days later to ask if I had changed my mind. Apparently the painting couldn't work without me, and it was going to play a huge part in his A-level portfolio.

Still, I said "No".

I never found out what became of his portfolio. I think in the end he used a girl in his year as his model. But even though our school wasn't exactly a gynormous one, I rarely saw him after that. I think he tended to keep a low profile, and I did so too at the time, so aside from one awkward "Hello" or the other when we walked past each other (like once a month) on our way to classes, I didn't speak to him again.

Anyway, before you get the wrong idea and walk away believing (as I may or may not have led you to believe) that this guy, who has now become a global superstar had some kind of unhealthy fixation with Oluwabitchyola, I think it would be best if I shared one teeny detail.

I was the only black girl at our school. And I was a black girl with very long, very sizzling black braids. I don't think it was me he wanted specifically, I think it was my skin colour, and my hair, and what he thought would contrast brilliantly against the corset and the backdrop he had created.

So if you were looking for a story that would have me gloating at the end, as having once been the object of desire of someone who now has a No. 1 under his belt, and who is probably the sexiest Rock god to hit the British Isles since Freddie Mercury, uh.... I'm afraid you will have to look elsewhere.
This and 'Love Today' are my absolute favourites. And 'Happy Ending' of course. It's so weird because even though I barely knew him, I am SO so happy for him!

Monday, September 17, 2007

On Dildo's Beach

Here sits Dildo, mucking up my beautiful view with her big behind!

Dear Blog Folk,

I would like to thank you all for the advice about Dildo. I am so pleased to report that she has not been to work since that very first day. Yaaay! And NO I did not lace her lunch bowl with laxatives or arsenics or anything of the kind.

Despite this good news, I can't seem to stop craning my neck over the border of my desk everytime I hear the door open. The barricade I put up under my desk last week is still very much erect, and despite two scuffles and word-exchanges with the office cleaner, it looks set to stay that way - especially after the little 'moment' Dildo and I shared last week - barely a few hours after I wrote the post below.

After my tattle-telling session with The Big Boss on Tuesday, I soon found that the habits of Dildo's owner, and Dildo's owner's partner, were not going to die so easily. Every single time they left their room to come out into our communal area, they left their door open, and a few minutes afterwards, their not-so-little furry friend trotted out to see what it was they were up to. (Apparently she doesn't like being left alone. I felt like yelling "Who bloody cares?!!" but bit my tongue).

Round about 4pm, I was given the joyous task of printing labels. With little or no ceremony, I typed the labels on my computer, and clicked print. I then stood up, preparing to make my jolly way over to the printer, when I noticed that a big furry body was SPRAWLED on the floor barely a metre away from my desk. I could not believe it! Raw, untamed panic built up inside me with alarming speed and I sat down abruptly. You see, I have always known that I was afraid of dogs. I knew this the day my mother turned up with two puppies and let them loose under our dining table. I was about 8 at the time, and although I didn't cry, I did curl my knees up under my chin and secure my feet firmly on the same small square of chair as my buttocks! But alas, last Tuesday, I was no longer a petite 8 year old with short, easily bendable legs. I was a ... {insert words to describe a truly stupendous goddess with a not so small butt, and some not so easily bendable legs} ... And I was panic stricken.

Dildo lay on the floor, unperturbed, preening herself, kinda like Cleopatra on a chaise longue, smack bang in the middle of my route to the labels I had so diligently typed out. I sat at my desk, fiddling with the barricade in the hopes of making it look even more impenetrable to the canine eye (what do I know about doggy IQ?), wanting to storm out, but rooted to the chair by my fear, desperate to bawl like a baby, but mindful of the need to maintain my 'professional' countenance.

Gawd, it was awful!

I really thought I was going to spend the rest of the day glued to my chair, until Dildo grew tired of the 'Isn't it fun torturing Bitchy?' game she had been playing all day! As luck (and GOD) would have it though, Cee came along (she has now become my favourite person in the office, a knight in shining armour, some would say), and sensed from my... um... wobbly expression that all was not so good in Bitchy's hood.

So she got down on all fours, at which Dildo promptly rolled over onto her back (she really is a diva), and began a laborious tummy rub of the stupid dog. Apparently Dildo is a sucker for all things massage-related, but she won't accept rubs from just anyone. She accepts them only from her friends, and only on those days when she requests them. In short, rub her at your peril! Whilst Cee rubbed and rubbed, and imparted all this information about the cranky dog that I had been told was "only a harmless bunny-wunny", I walked to and from the printer, picking up my labels, grabbing envelopes, and berating myself for signing up for the stupid job. Only I could have chosen to work for FREE in an office where a temperamental/ menopausal/ possessed DOG reigned supreme! I walked around lunging at anything in sight that I thought could possibly be of use to me during the remaining 90 minutes I would have to spend in the office, as I vowed at that moment, that I would not leave my seat, not once, not in the event of a runny nose, a water spill, or other such eventuality... not until it was time to go home.

Till next time... Xxx

P.S. Re Title, It was supposed to be a lame pun on the title of Ian McEwan's book. I had actually intended to give my lengthy verdict on 'On Chesil Beach' (months after everyone else, yes, I know!) but somehow all that got lost in the painful memories from last week that came flooding back. Condensed to just a few words, it goes something like this - "What is all the fuss about??" Fine, the suspense in the novel (which I think should even be classed as a novella) is fantastic, and McEwan brilliantly leaves his reader dangling in the air with such unrestrained abandon, and in such an easy manner that many have tried and failed to emulate. But, I am still not convinced that this is a work of literary genius, or that it is deserving of the Booker. Think about it - Is this the best book you ever read? Is it even close?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Working Girl's Woe

Bitchy sent the email below to a group of beloved friends this afternoon, and just now, on her way to bed, decided that she would share it on her blog. She decided this for 2 reasons. First, because she is aware of the fact that she has not blogged in a while, and is afraid that if she persists in being lazy, she is unlikely to ever blog again. And second, because she needs many hands on deck to help her deal with a very serious problem.

For the avoidance of confusion, you ought to know that Bitchy signed up 2 days ago as an "intern" with a leading literary agency in London. She was looking for something with which to pass the time between her sojourn in Lagos and her forthcoming globe-trotting stint. For 2 days, Bitchy has played the role of a receptionist whose activities include letting delivery men into the office building, answering the office telephone, trudging up 4 flights of stairs with a large sack of post in tow, replying to emails that the agents are too busy/irritated to respond to themselves, and standing at attention in anticipation of the arrival of clients before ushering them into the office and offering them cups of tea/coffee/poison.

This was not the role she signed up for when she filed her application. Bitchy was told by the lead agent that she would get the chance to read and edit manuscripts. Many, many manuscripts. That she would drown in stacks of them and retire home a happy bunny every day. But after her first 2 days, Bitchy finds that she is yet to come within even a hair's breath of a manuscript!

She has been deceived.

*Start of Email*

"This whole job thing is just turning into one terrible Ben Stiller-esque comedy show. First I'm getting tongue paralysis from stamp licking (I've worked out my own form of revenge though.... If an envelope I weigh needs 42p of stamps, I put a 50p stamp on it. Ha!) And then today, I got the brilliant news that this guy who works in the office next door (which for some reason keeps open the door it shares with us all the damn time) is coming back tomorrow, with his HUGE grumpy DOG!!!

Can you imagine???? And guess WHO sits beside the open shared door? ME!! I.e. Bitchy, who is TERRIFIED of dogs. I'm so scared. I've been praying all day for some kind of miracle. Please join me. I want the thing to drop dead over night.

What is wrong with these British people? A DOG in the office???? And they didn't even tell me about it when I applied!! I rejected another agency simply because they had a dog. And I hate how they act like you're some kind of gremlin from PLUTO if you say you're afraid of/ don't like dogs!!


*End of Email*

Dear Blog Folk,

Please join Bitchy in praying for the infliction of a sudden and inexplicable but completely curable and easily treatable illness on said massive dog, which threatens to make her miserable experience even more miserable from tomorrow morning onwards. Apparently Dildo (that's not its real name, although it's similar enough) is an aggressive dog with a strong distrust for strangers. She is huge and barks like a lion. She is also the queen of the office and saunters from one corner to another unhindered. If opposed she has been known to growl and pounce. But, as Bitchy has been told, "she wouldn't hurt a fly" and her "pounces do not hurt"!!!

After the long consultation process with friends that ensued when the above-inserted email was sent, Bitchy decided that she will be leaving this job on Friday.

But first, there is the issue of the DOG to be dealt with.

Oh and before you go calling her a spoilt brat for the umpteenth time (*cough* Rukks), DID she mention that she isn't even being PAID by the agency for this slave labour?

***** UPDATE *****

Dildo is in the building. She arrived at 11am. So far she has done nothing but BARK ferociously at the poor office cleaner who through no fault of her own passed in front of Dildo's door a number of times whilst doing the vacuuming.

Bitchy has barricaded herself into her desk which, as she discovered, is high enough for Dildo the dog to crawl under if she so desires. Bitchy's dust bin, some lever arch files, and some cardboard boxes that she only just emptied as part of her post-sorting duties, have come in very handy.

Bitchy has also reported (subtly of course and in as non-whingey a form as she could manage) the gentleman whose dog Dildo is, to her boss. The gentleman refused to shut the shared door when Bitchy asked him to this morning. And so she went to the top!

The door is now shut, but Bitchy's barricade is still up. She is taking no chances.